As Gainesville’s redistricting efforts wait for county approval of new voting precincts, residents of two communities have asked to be returned to District 1.
Residents of the Fifth Avenue and Pleasant Street communities, which lie north of University Avenue between UF and downtown, are scheduled to move from District 1 to District 4 under the latest iteration of the redistricting plan.
However, Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker, who represents District 1, said at Thursday’s regular meeting that several constituents had contacted her to ask that their communities return to District 1, which has been Gainesville’s majority black voting district.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, who represents District 4, said the difficulty of moving the two communities back into District 1 is that precinct boundaries have been changed. Under the current redistricting plan, the Pleasant Street community and part of the Fifth Avenue community are in newly redesigned precinct 25. And precinct 25 is what connects precinct 27 to the rest of District 4.
Precinct 27, which contains the Duckpond area, was originally placed in District 1 as part of the city’s redistricting but was moved back into District 4 because of concerns that the Duckpond’s white voters would dilute the historically black voting bloc in District 1.
The Florida Legislature’s redistricting has already split the city between state house and senate districts in such a way that the southwest corner of the Fifth Avenue community has been notched out and included in a separate state house district from the rest of the community.
Since it is in a different state house district, that portion of the Fifth Avenue community has been moved to a separate voting precinct. If precinct 25 is moved back into District 1, it would mean the two parts of the Fifth Avenue community would be represented by two different city commissioners, Hayes-Santos said.
Duncan-Walker said she had spoken with Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton about moving the communities back into District 1 and that Barton said it was possible.
However, the supervisor wasn’t part of Thursday’s meeting, so the commission asked staff and the city’s UF consultants to continue discussion with the supervisor about potentially altering maps and precinct boundaries.
“To me the barriers seem relatively high to accomplish this but if the supervisor has an idea or a concept map that she thinks would work, I certainly would want to see that,” said Mayor Lauren Poe.
Before the city can finalize district maps, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners has to accept the redrawn precinct boundaries from the supervisor of elections office. The city expects the BOCC to take action on the new precincts at one of the board’s April meetings.